April 27, 2020

Hirono Joins Bipartisan Call for Economic Relief for Local Newspapers, Rural Broadcasters During Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) joined Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and dozens of their colleagues to call on the Office of Management and Budget to support local television, radio, and newspapers who are struggling as advertising revenue has plummeted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This effort comes as Americans rely more on local and regional news to update them about the pandemic.

In their letter, the Senators suggest that federal agencies increase their advertising in local media. This strategy would allow the federal government to provide critical information about the pandemic, the 2020 Census, and other timely issues, while contributing much-needed revenue to local newspapers and television and radio broadcasters.

“We strongly believe that local newspapers and broadcasters play an integral role during the COVID-19 pandemic and making sure that stations are able to continue operating during this time is critical. We therefore encourage the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations in order to help ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senators wrote.

Earlier this month, Senator Hirono joined a similar letter with nearly 20 Senate colleagues to ask Senate leadership to support local journalism and media in future coronavirus relief packages.

The letter can be found here and below: 

Dear Mr. Vought, 

We are writing today concerning the challenges faced by local media and actions the Office of Management and Budget can take that will help ensure these important businesses are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our radio and television broadcasters and rural newspapers provide local and national news, emergency alerts, educational programs, and more to all corners of the United States. In many rural areas, broadcast stations are the predominant or only form of local information. It is important that local media are able to continue to provide their services during the COVID-19 pandemic so that Americans are able to stay up to date with the latest news and information.

Local newspapers and broadcasters have been particularly hit hard financially due to decreased revenue typically derived from advertising sales. This comes at a time when they have increased coverage of daily news, alerts and educational programs. As Congress and the administration continue to work to keep small businesses operating and employees on the payroll through the Paycheck Protection Program, we believe there is an opportunity for the federal government to provide relief to our local newspapers and broadcasters.

Many federal agencies maintain advertising accounts in order to provide public notices and information to Americans. For example, the Census Bureau receives funding to run advertisements regarding the 2020 Census. With the passage of new programs under the CARES Act and other COVID-19 related legislation, there is an opportunity for the federal government to disseminate essential information to Americans through local advertisements. Further, allowing for flexibility for state and local governments to use federal funds to publicize new programs and information to their residents would serve a vital, dual interest. Increasing local advertising will both help disseminate important information to communities and support local media with revenue that will help keep them operating. This action can be implemented today, without the need for additional federal appropriations from Congress.

We strongly believe that local newspapers and broadcasters play an integral role during the COVID-19 pandemic and making sure that stations are able to continue operating during this time is critical. We therefore encourage the Office of Management and Budget to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations in order to help ensure they are able to continue to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We thank you for your attention to this important issue and look forward to your response.

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